BOSTON, MA – Thomas Leonard Phillips, originally named Athanasius Leonidas Philippides, died at his home in Weston, MA on January 9, a few months shy of his 95th birthday.
Born in Constantinople to Greek parents, Phillips immigrated with his sister and widowed mother to Canada in 1929 and then to the U.S. in 1936, settling in Boston. His mother married a Greek-American who ran a cafe there, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported.
A poor kid from Mission Hill who excelled at the Boston Latin School, studied Electrical Engineering at Northeastern, he was drafted to serve in World War II, but the Japanese surrendered before he was sent to the Pacific theater, WSJ reported. He married Gert in 1944 and enrolled at Virginia Tech. Patty was born while he was still in the Army, and Bobbie while he was still a graduate student. He distinguished himself in electrical engineering and was eventually recruited by Raytheon on a tip from his buddy John Goode. Phillips spent his entire career at Raytheon, rising rapidly through the leadership ranks based on his intellect, discipline and integrity. He was always a modest man and liked to remind people that he got some breaks along the way, including the mentorship of T.C. Wisenbaker and Charles Francis Adams IV. He served as CEO from 1968 to his retirement in 1991, adding the Chairman title in 1973.
Phillips served on the boards of many corporations and foundations, including John Hancock, Digital Equipment Corp, Knight Ridder, Mass General and the Joslin Diabetes Center, as well as Gordon College, where he endowed the Phillips Music Center in 2000. Phillips was a devout Christian, and he believed deeply in the importance of faith in everyday life. He also believed in the value of a liberal arts education, and with Raytheon he endowed the Phillips Scholarship Fund at the Boston Latin School in 1992. For over forty years, Phillips hosted monthly First Tuesday breakfasts, assembling local businesspeople and friends to develop personal and professional leadership in his Christian community.
A lifelong athlete, Phillips grew up on the basketball court, was a formidable tennis player, a competitive squash player well into his sixties, and a devoted golfer in his later years. Through his nineties, he rode his stationary bike several times a day. His competitive drive in sports was undiminished to the end and played out in hourless games of Rummikub with children, caregivers, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
Services were held at the Trinitarian Congregational Church in Wayland, MA, on January 20.
Phillips is survived by his four children and their spouses, Patty and Bob Fraser of Concord, MA, Bobbie and Dan Suratt of Wellesley, MA, Debbie Phillips and Lee Robertson of Rye, NY, and Tom Phillips and Ellen Hopkins of New York, NY. He is also survived by his eleven grandchildren and twelve great-grandchildren. Phillips was preceded in death by his beloved wife of 73 years, Gertrude Van Iderstine Phillips.
Phillips achieved the pinnacle of business success as Chairman and CEO of Raytheon Company, where he spent his entire professional career. But he is remembered most by the legions of people he touched and influenced for his values and generosity, which have left a lasting legacy for his family. His family was preeminent in his life, and he loved bringing everyone together, providing experiences that created a lifetime of memories. In his last thirty years, he looked forward to frequent visits and calls as the family grew up and spread around the world.
In lieu of flowers, gifts in Phillips’ honor may be made to the Phillips Scholarship Fund at the Boston Latin School, www.blsa.org (go to Giving/Donate and please note the Phillips Scholarship Fund in the comments box). The mailing address is Boston Latin School Association, 27 School Street, Suite 300, Boston, MA 02108.
(Material from the Boston Globe obituary, published Jan. 13, was used in this report.)